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Debate continues over need for COVID-19 vaccine 'booster shot'

Kidney transplant recipient receives 4 doses
Vaccine
Posted at 4:28 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 19:11:06-04

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Even before the pandemic began in 2020, Jenny Woda of Cleveland Heights was living the life of social distancing. She received a kidney transplant in 2019 and takes anti-rejection drugs that lower her immune system.

“From September to December 2019, I stayed in my house,” she said. “I wore a mask and used hand sanitizer constantly.”

When it came time to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Woda received her first dose of Moderna in February 2021 and her second shortly thereafter. Because of her compromised immune system, she quickly learned her body still had no antibodies.

“I was fully vaccinated according to the CDC, but had no protection as far as I knew,” she explained.

That prompted a conversation with her transplant doctors about what to do next. Eventually, Woda ended up calling her doctor's office and successfully scheduling and receiving a third and fourth dose of the vaccine beginning in May.

Woda said her body finally started retaining antibodies with the extra Pfizer doses.

More than six months after COVID-19 vaccinations began in Ohio, the conversation now starts to shift into whether or not third doses, known as booster shots, will be needed.

It's a question that many in the medical community are still trying to answer.

The CDC and FDA announced Thursday evening that fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot at this time, however Pfizer announced Friday morning they will ask the FDA to authorize a third booster dose.

News 5 reached out to a handful of county health departments and local hospitals, who all said they’re not administering booster shots to anyone yet. However, many said plans are in place if and when third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are approved.

Dr. Claudia Hoyen with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital fields that question pretty frequently. She points to the continuously evolving science and studies that surround it as to why we’re seeing different strategies for a third coronavirus vaccine dose.

“As we get closer to the fall and into the winter we will have much more data as to what our next steps will be,” she said. “Personally it makes sense for Pfizer to go ahead and make sure they have everything in line so that if for some reason it's determined we need booster doses, there’s no lag.”

Hoyen said her focus remains on getting children and adults fully vaccinated, with only 48% percent of Ohio's population fully vaccinated. Keep in mind, no vaccine is available to children under 12 years old.

As for Jenny Woda, receiving four doses of the vaccine comes with a sense of relief, but still a cloud of questions.

“Part of me feels like I have some antibodies, I have some protection and it would probably be okay,” she said. “Part of me feels like you don’t know. I don’t really know how protected I am.”

If Pfizer gains approval for a third dose, it would be administered anywhere from six to 12 months after the second shot. It’s not clear when the FDA will decide on Pfizer’s latest emergency use authorization request.